For cranberry farmers, autumn brings falling leaves and rising hopes. Family-owned operations, such as Deer River Cranberry Farm in Brasher Falls, cultivate their vines in meticulously manicured marshes. Droplets descended from irrigation spigots glisten atop entangled mats of waxy, evergreen vines, forming a coruscant carpet. Harvest season begins in mid-September, and is well underway by early November.
Most cranberry varieties produce fruit every other year. To harvest the crop, some farmers flood their typically well-drained bogs. The hollow, red berries rise above their short canopy. Collecting tools include buoyed nets, or water reels, which corral fruit for a mechanical harvester. Berries are then sent careening down a series of steps, with the roundest, plumpest, highest quality fruit tumbling the farthest.
The fierce, firetruck red aesthetic of a Demoranville berry contrasts sharply with the mottled, red-and-white complexion of a Mullica Queen, but both must pass the test. Wizened, infested, or misshapen products that aren’t firm enough to sufficiently bounce will be discarded, along with the farmer’s hope for an unblemished crop.